Since I raised over $20 million in venture capital for my businesses from top-tier VCs, new founders often ask me to review their fundraising pitch decks. Over and over again, I see early-stage founders repeat the same mistakes, reducing and sometimes eliminating their chances at funding. Here are four of the most common ways a pitch deck goes wrong, along with simple tweaks to reframe your pitch to appeal to early stage investors.
Showing off Your Product
You are so proud of what you’ve built and the product that has gotten you to this point. Unfortunately, your product screenshots are doing more harm than good. Your early stage product actually sucks. And it should. At this stage it isn’t about having the most perfect, polished, mind-blowing product. Forgo the product screenshots and long product demo in favor of speaking to the opportunity. Early stage investors want to believe there is a massive market opportunity and when you focus too much on the reality of what you’ve built, it can kill the dream.
Forgetting to Sell Yourself
Think of early stage fundraising as a conversation. What do you do first in any conversation? You introduce yourself. Your pitch should be no exception. Early on in your presentation you need to have a slide about yourself and your co-founders. Investors want to know that you have the skills, background and grit that will make you successful where others will not be. Don’t be afraid to sell yourself. Your background, credentials, and past big wins are absolutely relevant to why you will be successful in this business endeavor. On the flip side, if you use your team slide to emphasize some advisor or random team member at the company, it will make investors question whether you — the founder and any co-founders — have what it takes.
Reliance on Unimpressive Metrics
Let’s be honest, most businesses do not grow up to the right, especially in the early days. When you’re iterating and figuring stuff out, your metrics probably don’t look like a hockey stick. It’s okay to include a couple of these key metrics in your deck, but you have to answer the question: why does this graph mean that you have achieved some traction? Relying on the numbers alone won’t work this early on. You need to provide clear context.
For my company DRC, we included a slide in our deck of a few search queries where DRC was ranked in the number one spot. These were queries investors could try themselves. This helped contextualize our user numbers in a way that was tangible and memorable.
Giving Away the Goods
If you share absolutely everything about your company all at once, it’s not only too much for someone to digest in a single meeting, it also means an investor has no need to talk again before making a decision. Think of it like this though: just like it took you more than an hour to build this company, it takes investors time and multiple conversations to gain conviction. So give them a reason to want to talk again. More practically, the odds, even for the best companies, are that most investors will say no. Let the no’s weed themselves out with that first meeting so you don’t give away all your detailed metrics and best practices to someone who may fund a competitor. Remember, early stage investors want to believe there is a massive opportunity and you are the entrepreneur uniquely positioned to capture it. Treat your pitch deck as an opportunity to sell the vision, yourself, your traction, and leave investors wanting more.
For more on financing your business, view the free video entitled Finding Funding For Your Business.
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